One of the big positives for Brest last season was the goalkeeping of Joan Hartock. He seemed to really develop, and whilst still lacking some consistency, managed to single handedly earn them some draws and victories. If he continues his progress he could become one of the best keepers in this ligue. Brest have a strong backup in Donovan Leon who I thought would push Hartock last season. They won’t be downgraded too much should he be needed. The Brittany club had a superb defence a couple of years ago that included the likes of Wilfried Moimbe and Ismael Traore. It regressed last season to just a mediocre level and right now there’s been a complete turnaround regarding players. They look set on the left hand side with Lyon loanee Louis Nganioni coming in, fresh from a season in the Eredivisie. Gaetan Belaud on the right is one of the best in his position in Ligue 2.
As far as centre backs and go, they’ve lost Simon Falette and Baissama Sankoh, both of whom started 30+ games last season. The former has moved up to Ligue 1 level with Metz and will be heavily missed. Sankoh meanwhile, was never a natural centre back but had proven quality at a higher level.
The Brittany club have signed four other new defenders. In the heart of defence Brazilian Luciano Castan comes in. I have absolutely no idea how good or bad he is, except most of his career has been played in Brazilian Serie B. Alongside him, Zakaria Diallo is a more known prospect in this division and been a key player for Ajaccio in recent years. Alexandre Coeff arrives on a two year loan from Udinese and can play in a range of different positions. Julien Faussier is the final addition, best suited to left or right back it seems his primary usage for Brest will be in defensive midfield. Brest have a few defensive midfielders to choose from, but none of them are what I’d call top class at this level. Manuel Perez can have good and bad days, whilst Eric Tie Bi has gone downhill in the last couple of years and looks set to leave. The aforementioned Faussurier and Coeff can both play here, but both are probably better suited elsewhere. So Les Rouges and Blancs aren’t particularly strong in this position. But it might not matter! New coach Jean Marc Furlan has never really been a man to play with two DMIDs, instead preferring a more offensive formation.
Key players: Joan Hartock (GK), Gaetan Belaud (RB)
Under Alex Dupont, Brest were never a strong offensive threat and actually ranked joint second worst for goals scored last season (34 in total). His tactics were the main reason for this, although Brest could also do with a bit more quality in these areas. The only two reinforcements to date are Valentin Lavigne, on loan from Lorient & Neal Maupay from Saint Etienne (loan). Lavigne was at Laval last season and only scored three goals. He can play on the wings a bit as well but he’s hardly the sort of real quality addition they need. Youssef Adnane was their top scorer in 2015/16 with 10 goals in 28 appearances, which is a fairly good hit rate. It looks like he’s going to leave the club though and Neal Maupay will be taking his place. Long touted as a teenage sensation at Nice, he hasn’t been given the game time he needs to develop at Sainte. It’s worth remembering he only turns 20 in August so is still pretty young. Maybe a whole season starting in ligue 2 will do him some good, if he knuckles down he could be a class above this level and her looks a good signing.
This offense could become quite useful under Jean Marc Furlan if he can just add a couple more pieces. Brest legend Bruno Grougi, now 33 years old is retained again. From the no 10 role, Grougi has great technical quality and playmaking ability, although his game time might need to be managed/rotated on occasion. Statistically, Brest’s second best attacker last season was Christian Battocchio. Many would class him as a genuine central midfielder box to box type, but with great playmaking abilities. He just seems like the perfect sort of player that Furlan loves and he could thrive under a new system. Out wide, Bryan Pele and Steven Joseph Monrose are strong wing options too, both capable of rotating on either side. When at full strength the Breton’s look alright going forwards. But they lack some depth and need to sign some more players in case injuries and suspensions kick in.
Key players: Christian Battocchio (AM), Neal Maupay (ATT)
Coaching, other factors & conclusion
New coach Jean Marc Furlan arrives following a bitter-sweet spell at Troyes. Furlan seems to be one of those coaches who is great at managing in the second tier, but things then fall apart in the top flight. He has managed to obtain promotion from this ligue on three separate occasions, so clearly Brest will hope he can do the same with them. Furlan is usually quite an attack minded coach and his sides are pleasing on the eye. Le Stade Francis le Ble can be an intimidating place, and the sort of stadium nobody likes to visit in the winter with the harsh Breton coastal weather at its worst. But the pitch quality can deteriorate and this might not suit Furlan’s style of technical football. He was spoiled by the excellent pitch in Troyes. Brest finished 10th last season, although due to the nature of some performances it felt worse. I think Furlan will bring about an improvement, although quite how much I’m not sure. Brest have signed a lot of players late in July and I expect maybe a couple more in August too. It might take some time for the squad to settle down and it could ultimately take 2-3 transfer windows for the new coach to stamp his authority on this club. I don’t think they’ll have enough to obtain promotion yet. But I could see Brest knocking on the door of the top six places and maybe in the second half of the season they could be one of the better sides in Ligue 2. Everything just feels to quick and hectic with them right now. New players have only just arrived and it could take some time for the identity of the team to settle down.